236427 11/24/2009 14:51 09BUCHAREST787 Embassy Bucharest CONFIDENTIAL 09BUCHAREST783 VZCZCXRO7271 OO RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL RUEHSR DE RUEHBM #0787/01 3281451 ZNY CCCCC ZZH O 241451Z NOV 09 FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0106 INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BUCHAREST 000787
DEPT FOR EUR/CE ASCHEIBE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/25/2019 TAGS: PGOV, RO SUBJECT: ROMANIA ELECTION UPDATE: PNL THROWS SUPPORT TO GEOANA, FURTHER ISOLATING INCUMBENT PRESIDENT BASESCU
REF: BUCHAREST 783 AND PREVIOUS
Classified By: DCM Jeri Guthrie-Corn for Reasons 1.4 (B) and (D).
1. (C) SUMMARY. Even as final election results showed incumbent President Basescu (PDL) and challenger Mircea Geoana (PSD) only a point apart after the November 22 first round elections, third place finisher Crin Antonescu announced November 24 that his National Liberal Party (PNL) would formally support Geoana's candidacy. Though not all PNL voters will follow their leadership, the move puts significantly more pressure on Basescu, who may now win formal support from only far-right parties and his own PDL. Failing a "game-changer" in his favor Basescu's prospects are waning quickly, though his political skills and "fourth quarter" toughness have shown in the past that you can never count him out. End Summary.
2. (U) With 99.92 percent of votes tallied, the Central Election Bureau (BEC) released near final results early on November 24: Basescu (Democratic Liberals - PDL) 32.42 percent, Geoana (Social Democrats - PSD) 31.17 percent, Antonescu (PNL) 20.0, Vadim Tudor (Greater Romania Party - PRM) 5.55, Kelemen Hunor (Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania - UDMR) 3.83, Sorin Oprescu (independent) 3.18, Gigi Becali (New Generation Party) 1.91. Final voter turnout stands at 54 percent, higher than expected. Although a few dozen election challenges remain, there is no expectation that any of these will change the current figures. Basescu and Geoana will now advance to the December 6 runoff.
3. (U) The Ministry of Interior reported the number of electoral "incidents" at 1327, about evenly divided between urban and rural areas. As reported reftel, many of these involved allegations of vote-buying and most involved the three major parties. In a November 23 preliminary statement, the OSCE Limited Observer Mission praised the election as generally meeting OSCE and international standards, but noted accusations of multiple voting and long lines at special polling stations - many of which closed before all voters were able to cast their ballots. The OSCE team will remain in country to observe the remainder of the campaign and the December 6 runoff.
4. (C) Following the morning release of the election returns, the PNL leadership called a hurried conference over lunch to discuss their strategy for the runoff campaign. (N.B. This caused Defense Committee Chair Teodor Melescanu to cancel participation in a roundtable for visiting CODEL Skelton, which he had been scheduled to host.) By mid-afternoon, PNL issued a press statement that the party would formally support Mircea Geoana's candidacy. PNL chairman Antonescu also announced that he would personally and actively campaign for Geoana. At the same time, the UDMR seems poised to follow suit. Though the Hungarians control at best five percent of the electorate, they have disproportionate influence in the Transylvanian region to the southwest and their electorate is known for its tight discipline in supporting the UDMR leadership.
5. (SBU) Meanwhile, as politicians quarrel disbursement of the next tranche of the IMF bailout package will almost certainly be delayed until early 2010. As previously reported, the GOR must pass a CY2010 budget that meets IMF criteria before the IMF Board will vote to release the money. While the Parliament may be ready to take up the budget the minute a new Government is formed after the December 6 runoff, inauguration of the new president, nomination and approval of the new Government and presentation of the budget could well take several weeks. Even were an IMF team able to visit Bucharest and report back to the IMF Board before the New Year, the Board itself would not likely convene for a vote during the holiday season. This poses an even greater challenge to a GOR already struggling to pay this year's bills.
6. (C) COMMENT: For the moment, Basescu's campaign has probably reached its lowest point. In one of his few electoral missteps, the incumbent irreparably alienated Antonescu with an ill-timed debate reference to the long illness and eventual suicide of Antonescu's wife. PSD, PNL and UDMR constitute a working majority in the Parliament and their combined election machines will form a powerful electoral coalition. However, Basescu is still the incumbent and one of his campaign themes all along has been that he "stands alone" against the monied interests and influence peddlers. At the same time, Geoana has significant vulnerabilities. Though not demonstrably corrupt himself, Geoana's association with shady business oligarchs and backroom political operators tied to the pre-1989 Communist
BUCHAREST 00000787 002 OF 002
regime beg for exploitation. The wily Basescu is acknowledged as the most skillful politician on the scene today, and he is known for last-minute, come from behind victories. Most importantly, following PSD's withdrawal from the ill-fated coalition government with PDL, Basescu has control of the entire government apparatus - including the intelligence service - and will certainly take advantage of any weak spots Geoana may have. For now the race is Geoana's to lose, but nothing is certain given his own shortcomings and Basescu's skill and tenacity. END COMMENT. GITENSTEIN